Northumbria Squash hosted the Northumbria Open from 24th to 26th March at The Northumberland Club, Jesmond. This annual squash tournament sees world-class squash players descend on the area to compete in men’s and ladies’ professional events alongside some graded draws for local players. The event wouldn’t have been possible without support from local sponsors John Jasper Care, ACP Wealth Management, Holmes & Hunters, The Windmill Property Co. and Duncan HR.
MEN’S PSA EVENT
In the Men’s PSA event, the reigning champion and #107 in the world Owain Taylor returned to this year’s event as the number 1 seed. Taylor would have some tough competition to retain his title, however, with young Kiwi Elijah Thomas (WR #179), Canadian Brett Schille (WR #211) and Ruan Olivier from South Africa (WR #236) making up our international top 4 seeds. There was also a host of young talent involved in the draw stacked with world-ranked players, all hoping to make it through the opening round, which kick-started the tournament at midday on Friday.
There were no major shocks in round 1 with 6 of the 8 seeded players progressing into round 2, the only unseeded players to make it through were Joe Brooke and Gregory Malsang. Round 2 is where things began to really heat up, starting with a shock early exit for top seed Owain Taylor who was beaten by #413 in the world Ameeshenraj Chandaran in a thoroughly entertaining 3-2 battle. This was swiftly followed by 3/4 seed Ruan Olivier losing 3-2 to 9/16 seed Nathan Mead (WR #420). The 2 remaining top 4 seeds Brett Schille and Elijah Thomas both made it to the quarters unscathed, but Will Salter was the only 5/8 seed to progress as Michael Andrews, Tino Mackay Palacios and Ali Khawas all failed to move on.
The top half of the draw was now wide open, occupied by 3 9/16 seeds; Chandaran, Carter and Mead as well as the sole remaining 5/8 seed Will Salter. Salter faced Chandaran, in a rematch of the final match in the BUCS team championship finals which saw Salter come out on top 3-2. This time Chandaran had the upper hand winning 3-0 (11/9, 11/4, 11/6) continuing his fine form and advancing into the semi-finals. Jared Carter and Nathan Mead contested the other quarter-final in the top half, Mead had been involved in 2 brutal 3-2 wins the day before and Carter took advantage, winning in straight games 11/4, 11/7, 11/3. The bottom half, again, went more as expected with Schille and Thomas both advancing to the lower semi-final beating Carlton Oldham and Gregory Malsang respectively.
The first semi-final was Ameeshenraj Chandaran vs Jared Carter, a huge opportunity for both players to reach the final! This match was a great display of free-flowing squash, but Chandaran continued the excellent form he showed in the previous rounds, with his agility and consistent hitting proving too much for Carter. Chandaran advanced to the final, winning 3-0 (11/7, 11/6, 11/9). The second semi-final between Schille and Thomas continued in the same vein, with accuracy and fine retrieval skills on show. Schille took the 1st game 11/7, but Thomas responded quickly winning game 2 11/3. The Kiwi then won the crucial 3rd game and continued to apply the pressure in game 4 which he won comfortably to take the match 3-1 (7/11, 11/3, 11/7, 11/3) and face off against Chandaran in the final.
This was certainly not the final we expected, 9/16 seed and WR #413 Ameeshenraj Chandaran caused upset after upset to join #2 seed Elijah Thomas (WR #179) in the top 2. Despite the ranking difference, Chandaran took the early lead, winning 11-3 thanks to his unbelievable retrieval ability and clean hitting. The second game saw Thomas regain his composure, and both players matched each other point for point all the way to 9-9. However, it was Chandaran who edged the final 2 points to give himself a huge 2-0 lead. The third game was also finely balanced all the way, with some mammoth rallies at very important times in the game but, once again, it was the Malaysian who held his nerve and he took game 3 (11-9) to beat all the odds and claim the Men’s title.
LADIES’ PSA EVENT
This year’s strong Ladies’ draw saw all top 4 seeds ranked in the top 200 in the world. The draw was topped by WR #106 Asia Harris, a young talent who is no stranger to the Northumbria Open, as she won the 2021 Summer edition of the event and made it to the semis last year. The remaining top seeds were Ellie Jones from Scotland (WR #166), London-born Jasmin Kalar (WR #189) and Chloe Foster from Wales (WR #198). There were also a few local favourites in the women’s draw including Amanda King, Emma Turnbull, Harriet Wight and last year’s giant killer Kim Hay.
First round matches started on Friday evening, with local players involved in all 4 matches. Turnbull lost 3-0 to Faiza Zafar (the runner-up from 2021), King lost 3-0 to Carys Jones and Harriet Wight took a game off of world number 276 Shin Yujin. In the final round 1 match of the day, Kim Hay beat 5/8 seed and WR #363 Hayley Openshaw-Blower 3-0 to be the only unseeded player to reach the quarter-finals.
The top 4 seeds saw their first action in the quarters after getting byes in round 1. In the top half, Asia Harris beat Faiza Zafar 3-1 (11-7, 5/11, 11/4, 11/7), a repeat of the 2021 final, and Carys Jones caused an upset by beating 3/4 seed Chloe Foster in straight games (11/6, 11/9, 11/9) to set up a semi-final with Harris. The bottom side of the draw also had some surprises, first up was Shin Yujin who beat 3/4 seed Jasmin Kalar 3-1 (11/8, 11/9, 2/11, 11/5). The last game of the quarters was by far the closest as Kim Hay took on 2nd seed Ellie Jones in a match that could have gone either way. Hay took a 2-1 lead but just couldn’t convert as Jones took the last 2 games 16-14 and 13-11 to sneak her way into the semis.
Both semi-finals were dominated by the top seeds, Harris dispatched Carys Jones with relative ease after a tight first game (11/7, 11/4, 11/3) and Ellie Jones looked in control as she ended Shin Yujin’s run beating her 3-0 (11/7, 11/6, 11/4) to reach the final with Harris.
The final between the top 2 seeds was well contested, but Asia always looked in control against Jones who, despite a valiant effort, was always under pressure due to Asia’s consistent, quality shots and strength around the T. Game 1 was close with Harris just edging the last few rallies to take it 11/8, but game 2 and 3 quickly got away from Jones as the no.1 seed ran away with it, in the end, winning 3-0 (11/8, 11/4, 11/3). Asia had an almost flawless run through the Ladies’ event dropping just a single game in her 3 matches to reclaim the title she won back in 2021. A well-deserved 2nd title in Northumbria for the ever-improving English women.
This year’s A Event was full of quality players including the draw’s top 4 seeds: Sam Gibbon, Jamie Chalcraft, John Thompson and Ben Gibson.
The first round went without any surprises as all the seeded players progressed to the quarter-final stage with relative ease. The top 4 all continued their winning form in the quarters albeit with slightly more challenging games, especially Gibson who just edged into the semis after beating Jamie Mathews in 5!
The first semi-final saw Sam Gibbon (Nottingham Uni) defeat Ben Gibson (Newcastle Uni) in a well-contested 3-0 (11/4, 11/5, 11/9). The other semi was a lot closer, as John Thompson (Loughborough Uni/Northern) took a 2-0 lead over Jamie Chalcraft (Newcastle Uni), but Chalcraft battled back to win it 3-2 (11/13, 5/11, 11/2, 11/8, 11/5).
The final between the top 2 seeds was back and forth the whole match, Chalcraft won game 1 in a flash but he was pegged back to 1-1 after Gibbon took game 2 11/7. Chalcraft again took the lead, winning a tight third 11/9, but Gibbon sent the match into a fifth and final game. The last game was well-balanced, however, Chalcraft just had enough in the last few rallies to win it 11/7. Well done to Jamie Chalcraft on winning the A Event 3-2 (11/3, 7/11, 11/9, 5/11, 11/7).
In an entertaining B Event, the top 4 players were John Armstrong, Andrew Black, Harriet Wight and Mike Paul.
Round 1, once again, saw all the top seeds advance to the next round unscathed and of them, only Andrew Black failed to progress through the quarter-finals, as he lost a 2-0 lead to fall to Daniel Sarkissian.
In the first semi-final, 1 seed John Armstrong (Newbiggin) took an early lead against Mike Paul (Primrose), then Paul won the 2nd 15-13 to level the tie. The lead then went back and forth until Paul won the fifth game to advance to the final (7/11, 15/13, 6/11, 11/9, 11/3). The second semi was an all-Newcastle Uni affair, as Harriet Wight beat unseeded Daniel Sarkissian 3-1 (15/13, 11/5, 7/11, 11/3).
The final between the 2 3/4 seeds was a match of 2 very different styles; the accuracy and control of Mike Paul vs the agility and endurance of Harriet Wight. It was Paul who took an early 2-game lead as Wight seemed to have an eye on her upcoming final in the Ladies’ plate, but in the 3rd Paul looked to be tiring and Wight stormed to an 11-3 win to keep her chances alive. However, Paul regrouped in the fourth pinning Wight in the back corners and cutting out any loose shots, leading him to an 11-6 victory to seal the match 3-1 (11/4, 11/8, 3/11, 11/6). Congratulations to Mike Paul on his B Event win.
The C Event, topped by Stephen Rutherford, Marcus Allsop, Dylan Newton and James Gilbert, was exciting from start to finish with upsets and 5-setters galore.
Round 1 kicked off with a bang as Dan Renaud knocked out the top seed 12/10 in the fifth, but all the rest of the seeded players made it to the next round. There were no shocks in the quarters, however, Renaud’s giant-killing run was ended by 5/8 seed Angus Dean, Newton scraped past Matt Guthery 3-2 and Umer Chughtai had to cut short his challenge against 2 seed Allsop as he withdrew due to injury.
The top half semi saw junior Angus Dean (Northumberland) take on willing runner James Gilbert (Eldon). The entire match was on a knife edge with lots of corner-to-corner squash, but it was Dean who just edged each game to win 3-0 (11/9, 11/9, 12-10) and knock out his higher-seeded opponent. Unfortunately, in the other semi final Marcus Allsop (Northumberland) had to retire at the end of game 1 sending Dylan Newton (Northern) straight into the final.
The final was a very evenly matched affair full of entertaining rallies and dramatic moments. It was Dean who took control of the match in the early stages, dominating the middle of the court to take a 2-0 lead. Newton clawed a game back, winning game 3 11/7 and then saved 2 match balls in the fourth to take it into a decider. Taking confidence from the previous games Newton pushed on in the final game and just got over the line to complete the comeback, 3-2 (6/11, 9/11, 11/7, 12/10, 11/7). Congratulations Dylan.
All of the round 1 losers dropped into the plate events of their respective grades, congratulations to all winners and runners-up in these events.
MEN’S PSA PLATE: Ruan Olivier 3-0 Samuel Ince-Carvalhal (11/6 , 11/7, 11/5)
LADIES’ PSA PLATE: Harriet Wight 3-0 Amanda King (11/7, 12/10, 11/4)
A PLATE: Simon Long 3-1 Cole Windscheffel (11/6, 6/11, 11/9 – retired)
B PLATE: Ben Tudor 3-0 Tim Shield (11/9, 11/3, 11/8)
C PLATE: Stephen Rutherford 3-1 Scott Little (11/9, 7/11, 11/8, 11/5)
Special shout-out to Harriet Wight who reached 2 finals, winning 1, and played a massive 26 games (7 matches) across 3 days!
Finally, we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who played, spectated, organised and helped out during the tournament this year, it wouldn’t have been such a success without all of you. We hope to see you all again next year.